Saturday, September 1, 2007

Oh, Pair!: Miller Harris and Dauvissat

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to initiate some friends into the pleasures of wine and scent pairings. One of them, like me, certified by the WSET in viticulture, vinification and wine tasting, turned up her nose (equivalent of flipping the bird here on Vetivresse) at such an idea; the other submitted willingly. The blind pairing under scrutiny was comprised of a Dauvissat Chablis 1er Cru "La Forest," 1996 and perfumer Lyn Harris's recently released Fleurs de Sel. What intrigued me about the proposed marriage between the wine and the perfume was that any connubial bliss would be superceded by the discovery that, way back when, they had shared a common bed: the sea. Fleurs de Sel was inspired by its creator's beloved Brittany strandside retreat at Batz-sur-Mer and the famous sel gris that is hand-harvested from the salt pans there. The Chablis, while coming from an inland appellation, originated in a terroir marked by the vestiges of a former ocean: millions of fossilized crustaceans, mainly ostraceous. (Use your dictionary.) Of course, I kept this information to myself and decanted for my guests. The wine was conspicuously darker – medium-light straw – than the eau de parfum. At first sniff, it gave off textbook aromas of white fruits, white flowers and seashells; the scent, a coolness and marked salinity followed by an herbal accord, which, to my nose, disclosed Clary sage and wild thyme. We took a break for some water crackers and Caraquet oysters, and let the scent develop on the skin. After about ten minutes the scent had changed completely, with orris lending an intriguing smokiness and a glimmer of my beloved ambrette seed. The wine continued to evolve in our glasses, elegant, lithe – a harmony of minerals and sunkissed fruit. After another half-hour the scent had turned woody and warm, with very conspicuous vetiver and oakmoss. And, what's more, I could smell another one of my favorites: leather. (I corked the Chablis for fear that my guests would be susceptible to suggestion ... as well as for a selfish reason. Quiet protests followed; I stood my ground.) My neighbors interrupted us to show off their new puppy, and, by the time we returned to the task at hand, the Fleurs de Sel was showing the orris again (but softly floral this time around), alongside white narcissus and ... rose (?). Sipping the dregs of our glasses, I revealed the labels. We agreed that both wine and scent had transported us to some memory locale: for me, the shellfish bar my father and I frequented after fishing exploits on Long Island; for my guests, a summer weekend on the Île de Ré and a stay on the rocky limits of Nova Scotia. I was cajoled into uncorking the unfinished bottle. Oh, well. What else could I expect from such a pair?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

As per our discussion on Sunday night: Beautiful writing like this transports us into a higher state. Some ill-bred harridan running a magazine, or a former pretty-boy tarted out for purposes of self-aggrandizement does not bring to the world anything but disgusting behavior. But, the moments spent emersing oneself in a discipline of the senses, followed by contemplation and exegesis makes the world that much better.

September 4, 2007 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger Vetivresse said...

Thank you, Marie. Please refresh my memory as to the context of our conversation on Sunday night. Now, to contemplation...

September 4, 2007 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Marie Fatime of Damascus said...

My apologies about "emersion." As an avid aquarist, and lover of ponds and shorelines, I am attracted to the meeting point between land and water. An emersed plant is one that has its roots in the water or substrate, yet grows above the water line. Sometimes, the plant under water differs radically in appearance from the portion above water. An unintentional, yet not totally infelicitous mistake in the case of this lovely (waterb)log.

September 5, 2007 at 5:05 PM  

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